TOWNSEND -- Members of the Board of Selectmen, Finance Committee and Capital Planning Committee met Tuesday to discuss financing a comprehensive road-repair plan to keep Townsend's streets from slipping further into disrepair.
Although no decisions were made, board and committee members planned to work on a solution to present at Town Meeting this spring.
The poor condition of Townsend's roads, coupled with the fact that the state released only a limited amount of Chapter 90 road-repair funding this year, has become a town priority, Selectman Sue Lisio said, requiring the board to hold a special work session to address the issue.
"The thing I get the most complaints about are the roads. People stop me at the grocery store to tell me about the potholes," Lisio said.
"We can't just wring our hands and say we need the money and hope it falls from the sky. We need to have a plan for what we're going to do," she said.
Townsend funds its road repairs almost entirely with state Chapter 90 funding, but many at the meeting said that the town's road repair needs are so great that local funding is needed.
"I wonder if we can get to the point where we can commit local funds on a matching basis," said Lorna Fredd, chair of the Capital Planning Committee.
Highway Superintendent Ed Kukkula said he reached out to neighboring towns with similar problems, but hadn't discovered a "magic bullet" to solve the problem. He said some towns hired outside consultants to put together a pavement-management program.
The result was a comprehensive document detailing the length and condition of every road in town, as well as recommendations for how to repair the roads and when to perform preventative maintenance.
Kukkula said developing a plan to maintain the roads consistently, rather than patching them all at once and letting them deteriorate again, was a better solution in the long-term.
"Paving one road or even two roads every year isn't going to let us maintain our roads. It's a constant battle," Kukkula said.
Rick Oakley, of the Capital Planning Committee, said that repairing the roads all at once without regular maintenance could create further problems down the line.
"If we do the big bang theory to repair our roads, we'll be right back where we started. We have to look at it from a reverse perspective -- not come in with a big bang, but we've got to slowly ramp it up," Oakley said.
Town Administrator Andrew Sheehan said he would research the cost to hire a consultant to develop such a program, but guessed that it could cost $25,000 to $35,000.
Lisio suggested using what is left over from the existing Chapter 90 funding to finance the development of a management plan.
Selectman Robert Plamondon questioned the necessity of hiring an outside consultant and whether the money could be better spent on actual road repairs.
Committee members also debated using either a debt exclusion or a Proposition 2 1/2 override to finance road repair, but made no decision.
"Almost every community in Massachusetts is facing similar challenges to us in terms of maintenance of infrastructure. If there was a simple answer to, it we'd be doing it already," Sheehan said.
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